By RK Nagar
He was the only child of late Mrs Krishna and late Shri R N Haldipur, a former Lt. Governor of Arunachal and Pondicherry states. Mr Haldipur accepted Dr. Kurien’s offer and took over as Director, IRMA in 1982.
During his four years stay in Anand, I had only a formal contact with him. His wife, Mrs Krishna Haldipur was however my biggest support in my quest to start a NDDB managed school in Anand. It’s final outcome-Anandalaya now holds a place of pride in Anand school education circuit.
I was deputy director and heading planning function in NDDB. One day, a young man, fair complexioned and very sophisticated in manners came to my office and introduced himself as Vivek Haldipur. He had been appointed as Assistant Executive in planning and had come to join the new position.
One day, when we were discussing something in my office, he said, ‘Excuse me Sir, Can I take my medicines’? He pulled out a little box from his pocket and took out six or eight differently coloured tablets.
Till I saw those tablets, I thought he probably has a mild fever or a stomach upset, but when I saw so many tablets, I was baffled. I asked him, “ Why are you taking so many tablets? What are these for?”. “Epilepsy”, he replied and in the next 15 minutes I learnt how he contracted it during a visit to Mumbai when his father was the Lt. Governor of Arunachal and how well he has managed this irreversible condition ever since he was a school kid. Before this I had never seen an epileptic so I had no idea of the medication that is needed to control the symptoms.
Despite this medical condition, he not only managed himself very well all along but also completed his undergraduate degree from Harvard university, worked with a law firm there but decided to move back to India to be with his aging parents.
Vivek Haldipur at lunch time. Mitali and Shirley from Administration and Chairman’s Office. The picture above and this one courtesy Siddiqui.
After a brief stint with planning, he moved to administration. When I was interviewed for the position of Director, planning, it was Vivek who coordinated the interview. It was at his persuasion that I decided to go before the interview panel. During his brief stay with NDDB- I guess about two and a half years, we had become quite close. He used to drop in at my residence after office couple of times a week and we used to have interesting conversations on varying topics over a cup of tea. He however, never stayed back for dinner as he always preferred to have it with his parents.
One-Day he came and announced that he has resigned from NDDB and that he is moving back to USA. There were two strong reasons for it-one, he would easily get all the medicines he needed daily for controlling his epilepsy attacks and two, the law firm where he worked before moving to India wanted him back so he didn’t have to start from the scratch once he is back in US.
In June 1986, I moved to Bangalore and almost simultaneously so also did Mr. Haldipur. He had finished his tenure at IRMA and he wanted a quite retired life in Bangalore where he owned a small two room ground floor apartment in Malleshwaram. We often visited each other since neither he nor I had any social circle there.
One day Mr. Haldipur called me in office . It was unusual as he never called me during my work hours. He asked me if someone in Madras can help him and his wife urgently get a visitor visa for US. I immediately called my program coordinator, PVK Pannikar and asked him to call the secretary agriculture in the government of Tamil Nadu and seek government help if required. I also asked him to receive Haldipurs at the airport, go with them to the US consulate and drop them at the airport in time for departure to US. I called back Mr. Haldipur to convey that all arrangements have been made and that Dr. Pannikar will be with them throughout the day, till they take the flight to USA.
The urgency was because Vivek was admitted to a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona in a critical state and was on life support. He unfortunately had an attack of epilepsy when he was in a jacuzzi pool with his friends who didn’t know that he was epileptic and dismissed his drowning in the shallow pool as a mere prank. By the time he was pulled out of the water, chlorinated water had destroyed his lungs and he was unable to breath normally.
Mr. Haldipur called me after a couple of hours. In a very calm and soft voice he said, “Nagar, please inform Pannikar that we are not travelling to US. There is no need to. Vivek is no more”.
I was dumbstruck, the phone receiver dropped from my hands. I froze. I didn’t know how to react. When I regained my composure I called my wife and asked her to be ready to go to see the Haldipurs. She took the news with total disbelief as only a couple of days before, when we had gone to see them, they sounded so happy at Vivek’s new position in the state government. He was to take up his new assignment in Boston soon after his return from this short Arizona holiday.
When we reached his place in Malleshwaram, there were a handful of mourners who had never seen Vivek. As I hugged Mr. Haldipur, he pointed a finger towards the sky and murmured, “Nagar, HE gave him to us and today HE took him back from us”. Mrs Haldipur though herself broken from within tried to comfort a broken father who that morning, in fact only a few minutes before the news of Vivek’s critical condition came in, had changed into a new beautiful blue shirt that Vivek had sent him as Father’s Day gift.
Vivek contributed greatly among many other things
like preparing counter replies to White Lie,the
finalisation of reports for the Jha Committee etc.
I was moved from OVOW to the Chairman’s Office.
Vivek despite his medical condition volunteered to
help us in proof reading, editing and doing odd
jobs so that the reports could be prepared on time.
As usual Bhandari our man in crisis and his colleague
from printing section and colleagues from other
departments of NDDB and IDC all helped.
We would have our usual all night sessions that
stretched for days.Vivek would join us after early
Those days I used to smoke and so did Tom carter.
Vivek will tease and make fun of us when we would
get hyper and search late night or early morning
for cigarettes including butts of cigarettes
that we had already smoked.
I shared this writeup by Nagar with Tom
and this is what Tom wrote back to me;
Thank you for sharing it. Vivek was such a fine
person. I think he really enjoyed working with us
during that marathon.
And I expect he never told a soul about the effort
and its goals. I hadn't known the reasons for his
death. In fact, somehow I was under the impression
he had taken his own life. Sad as his drowning is,
in some ways it is better to know that was his end
and it was not as his own hand.
That was a wonderful time wasn't it. I still
remember Miss Patel opening the door and looking
in, seeing a cloud of cigarette smoke that you could
have cut with a knife,looking horrified and exiting.”
I was in Canada / US and Vivek and I had agreed
to meet. But it was not to be...
I got the news of his drowning accident while in Canada.
Vivek came into our lives at NDDB for a very short period
of time but he left for us “fragrance” of his
interactions with people cutting across hierarchy,
his simplicity and his exemplary commitment to commitment.
The tragedy just didn’t end here. Mr. Haldipur had to wait for whole one month for Vivek’s ashes to arrive. He had to go through an elaborate procedure. It was heartbreaking to see “SAARAANSH” (the famous Mahesh Bhatt movie) in real life. It is hard to imagine how deeply distressing this wait must have been for Mrs and Shri Haldipur.
As his memory, I have with me a Corning bakeware that he had gifted to me. He had brought it specially for my wife when he had gone to US on a short trip while still working with NDDB.